Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oh (insert appropriate entity here) I Wish I Could Quit You.

Yeah, I know this Brokeback joke is over-used, but I don't much care. Right now, the entities I'd like to quit include:

a) Entergy - my power company
b) Bell South -my former telephone provider
c) My University
d) civilization

Why such frustration? Oh goodness, where to begin.

For starters, my power company Entergy can go down the tubes for charging me over $100 a month during the month of Katrina and the months immediately following when nobody lived in my apartment and everything was off (save the refridgerator). I have tried numerour times to talk to Entergy to try and get my bill straightened out, but I am never able to get through due to "high call volume." Personally, I don't think Entergy gives a rats ass if you get through. They just want you to pay and shut up. Case in point, I finally decided to devote an entire morning to dealing with the situation, and I waited patiently before being able to speak to a customer service representative. Here's how our conversation went:

Me: HI, I'm calling to get my bill adjusted from the months following Katrina. These bills quote estimates for those months, but they are not accurate since I lived in another state following the hurricane. I can provide you with a copy of my lease.
Entergy: I'm sorry, but we have charged you what your meter reading showed as actual usage.

Me: But that's impossible. I wasn't here, there's no way our empty apartment could have been drawing that much power with everything off.
Entergy: Well that's the reading.
Me: Yes, well, the reading is clearly wrong because there was no one here to generate the power.
Entergy: That's the reading.
Me: Yes, well, the reading is wrong.
Entergy: That's the reading.

You get the idea. There was about an hour's worth of this which ended in me near tears. Also I know it's complete b.s. because there weren't employees in the city to take these so called "accurate" readings, meaning Entergy is full of crap. So I decided to explore my legal rights through our free legal assistance program. I emailed my friend who works with the program, and she said they've had a lot of similar complaints, but there's not much than can be done. She said:

"...the claims were all too small to sue over individually, and that Entergy is too messed up right now to accomplish anything without a lawsuit. Class Action would be the way to go, but no one wants to bankroll something that big against a company that filed for bankruptcy in October and has no cash flow. I think ____'s final suggestion was to use candles."

Candles. Uh, huh. If you don't think two hours on the phone with the power company can ruin your day, you are just plain wrong.

My battle with the power company had drug on so long that we are approaching cutoff if we didn't pay. Seeing no other option, I caved on paying their outrageous fee and next tried to arrange for payment. Entergy, being a multi-state corporation apparently lacks the ability for me to a) pay over the phone or b) via credit card.

Welcome to the 21st century Entergy! You're only a multi-state energy corporation, I mean, how ridiculous of me to think you would be able to facilitate my payment. I next asked if there is online payment available (which, admittedly, seems a long shot since you can't pay with credit). But, my goodness, they do have online payment! Hallelujah!

Ah, but I am black flagged on the last lap. The customer-inconvenice person tells me that, sure, I can pay online but that will take 3 to 5 days to process, by which time they may have cut the power. And no, I am not eligible for an extension for this to process. And no, she can't make a note in the file to show payment processing so that my power is not cut off.

I am now beginning to panic, neither wanting to deal with a lack of power in the apartment nor explain to D that we don't have power because of my moral stand and/or the fact that Entergy has a byzantine payment process. So I hang up the phone and head to a store that I know is a Entergy pay station to resolve this once and for all.

Except that when I get there, even though they are one of the few places in my neighborhood not demolished by the hurricane, they are no longer an Entgery pay station. Expletive expletive expletive.

It is now 4:30 in the afternoon, power to be shutoff tomorrow. I get back on the phone with Entergy pushing every imaginable button so that I can talk to a live person. Do I have a power outtage? You bet. Do I need to report a downed powerline? Sure. Whatever, just get me something with a pulse.

Somehow I hit the magic code and got somebody on the line to tell me where there are pay stations available. Of course none of them are remotely close and they are all scary, run down bodega type places. It is now rushhour traffik to boot and I am afraid that I'll waste hours caught up in traffic and never get the bill paid. I start calling the pay stations, and thank god, one is open until 9 p.m.

I feel a huge relief and decide that I will wait until traffic dies down and run some local errands like going to the drugstore and getting gas. This is a good plan, except that when I was running out of the house to try to pay the bill, I went off without my wallet (I had only my checkbook). All of which I did not realize until I had a full basket of items at the Walgreens, which I had to shamefully set on the ground and slink out of the store.

In the immortal words of Bill Paxton in Aliens, "Game over, man. Game over!"

I decide that I need to just take a nap because clearly, nothing is going to be accomplished with this day. So I take a nap, and then my friends kindly drive me to this frightening place in the burbs to pay the bill so I don't have to go alone. The place is sketch-tastic and I have them keep the motor running while I go inside. You can tell it's been robbed at least 100 times since there is no cash machine, there are crazy bars one the doors and windows, and alarms out the wazoo. Also, bizarrely in addition to your normal corner store goods of gum, sodas, and chips, there are about 15 containers of celery salt. Go figure. Anyway, payment completed, we go to drown our sorrows in the one decent mexican food place in all of Louisiana.

That was such fun, repeat process with minor varations with Bell South (who has disconnected our phone - but screw you we're going digital with our cable peeps). Repeat story with my university.

Honestly, it's enough to make me want to quit civilization and run off and be a mountain woman somewhere.

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